Combatting Racism in Local Communities

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2002 National Delegate Conference
25 February 2002
Carried as Amended

This Conference believes that the civil disturbances that took place in a number of towns in the summer of 2001 are a result of the economic and political exclusion of the working class communities in those areas. The exclusion has been exacerbated by structural unemployment that has resulted form the demise off manufacturing, social deprivation and the lack of comprehensive regeneration.

Conference is greatly concerned that this exclusion, and a lack of political and community leadership by local authorities, has created a political vacuum in local communities. Conference condemns the irresponsible use of official statistics to reinforce racial stereotypes. This has allowed the British National Party to incite racial hatred against Asian communities in the region and use the politics of hate to try to achieve political success at the ballot box. Their activities have resulted in an increase of racial attacks and the criminalisation of Asian youths who have fought back against what they believe are attacks on their communities.

We believe that, as the major employer in most communities, public authorities have a major role to play in providing access to employment both in terms of economic development and regeneration policies and direct employment.

Conference welcomes the initiatives that UNISON has undertaken, during the past year, to forward the policy of the union on this issue. These initiatives include:

1)Being the driving force behind TUC activity and working with anti-racist and anti-fascist organisations in the North West region;

2)Providing funding for, and working with the National Assembly against Racism, local politicians and local Asian community groups to set up, the Coalition Against Racism which was launched on 14th November 2001 in Oldham. The aim of the Coalition is to oppose the BNP’s attempts to use the politics of racial hatred for electoral advantage using publicity, leaflet drops and organising a large public event before the elections;

3)Holding a seminar with the aim of examining the implications for UNISON branches of the disturbances in Oldham, Burnley, Bradford and Stoke, looking at how black members can become more involved in UNISON branches, and how to encourage local authorities to employ more black workers. The seminar included branches in the North West and Yorkshire & Humberside where there are big Asian communities;

4)Participating in the Community Cohesion Review which was set up by the Government to examine the causes of the unrest in the North West. The Assistant General Secretary of UNISON served as a member of the review group and we were the only trade union, who participated in the questionnaire process, which the group used to help inform the findings of their report;

5)Supporting the work of local community groups such as the Youth Inclusion Project (YIP), for young people from two estates in Oldham,working with SALUD, a non governmental humanitarian aid organisation, Crime Concern, and KICKSTART, a project addressing issues around young people and car crime, and local businesses. This project has been supported with funding from the General Political Fund and the Policy Development and Campaigns Committee;

6)Various work programmes at regional levels.

Conference believes that deep seated poverty and underlying institutional racism in public services have resulted in housing, education, employment and health policies which have disadvantaged the black and Asian communities and reinforced the segregation between communities.

Conference calls on the National Executive Council to:

a)Call on the Affiliated Political Fund to campaign for the Government to invest financial resources in a regeneration programme for the regions such as North West;

b)Mainstream race equality using the new statutory duty to promote equality of opportunity as set out in the Race Relations (Amendment) Act Great Britain and Section 75 of the Northern Ireland Act. These powerful equality tools require governments and all public bodies to promote equality of opportunity in the exercise of their functions and policy-making, including procurement, service delivery and employment and can effectively be used to protect and increase the employment of black and asian members and address inequalities in public service provision;

c)Support, and encourage branches to be involved in, local community initiatives that are designed to break down the segregation between different communities, and in particular play an active role in any TUC co-ordinated activity in the run up to and during local elections;

d)Work in close collaboration with self-organised groups and encourage maximum participation in such exercises as the Stephen Lawrence project;

e)Continue to work with the TUC, National Assembly Against Racism and other anti-racist and anti-fascist organisations to fight the pernicious influence of the British National Party and National Front and other similar organisations;

f) Ensure the best negotiated facility time is available for black/asian and other activists who are organising and leading the fight against racism for UNISON, the largest trade union in the UK, with unrivalled structures for self-organised groups nationally. For UNISON to lead a strong campaign with the TUC and other trade unions for self-organised group activities to be re-classified as trade union duties with an automatic right to time off;

g)Work with public authorities to review existing employment initiatives in line with the recommendations of the Community Cohesion Review.